What Is Betrayal?
Betrayal is a devastating loss of trust in someone you love and who you believed, before the betrayal, would never hurt you. Betrayal can be as simple as leaving out important facts or telling falsehoods or as complicated as disclosing something confidential. But most often we think of betrayal as breaking a promise to be emotionally and sexually faithful. Sexual betrayal can be summed up as infidelity (emotional dishonesty) or cheating (physical dishonesty). In every case, betrayal is a stinging pain and psychological pain that rips love and trust apart.
Both Parties Are Hurt When One Partner Cheats
Betrayal produces shock and leaves you with an emotional wound. A betrayed partner can (understandably) become lost in his or her own sense of loss. But it is important to understand that hurt is shared by both partners. The cheater and the cheated-on partner, both suffer from a sense of loss. The cheater felt the pain of loss before he or she cheated, then acted out instead of turning inward for answers.
A cheated-on partner suffers when he/she finds out about an infidelity. They suffer more when they are forced out of their fantasy about love. For the cheated-on partner, infidelity was a wake up call, and now they find themselves wide awake and living a nightmare. They are left with a generalized fear that they were never really loved.
Love Can Heal
It takes a recognition that both partners have been hurt and it takes work. Couples recovering from betrayal have to understand that somewhere in their history together, they each hurt one another. So both partners have to dig deep to find a purer love to heal their relationship.
Betrayal never happens in a vacuum, one or both partners ignores tell-tale signs of friction that led towards infidelity. Instead of taking time to put their loving attention on those hurts, these couples dismissed love until a problem was created and love broke. The work for each couple is to learn to love again by facing the truth, hard truths about themselves, and their relationship.
Here is a list of things you and your partner can do to heal wounds and find love after a betrayal.
Examine Your Old Relationship Wounds
To heal a wound you must first take a good look at it. Too often one or both partners in betrayal can’t see the relationship clearly because they are wearing rose colored glasses. Unexamined hurt will expand into resentment then anger and self justification. Getting help with this examination is advisable.
The cheater has to rip off a layer of resentment so his heart can feel again. After a betrayal, he or she will be feeling the same resistances that drove them to cheat in the first place. At this stage of recovery, it is important that a cheater examine how he or she injured their partner as closely as he or she examines how their partner injured them. If looking at old wounds leads the cheater into a feeling of self justification and anger it will eventually lead to total separation.
The examination for every cheated-on partner is to see themselves and their partner as they truly are, warts and all. A cheated-on partner has to stop thinking their relationship is better than it actually is. This deception keeps a cheated-on partner from exploring their real disappointments and hurt and from acknowledging those of their partner. Although they never deserved to be lied to or cheated on their partner’s feelings are still 100% valid for them. Examining both their pain and the pain of their partner, couples can make peace with their old relationship wounds and begin to heal from betrayal.
Own Your Past
If your relationship has suffered a betrayal, remember you are not responsible for the actions of a cheating partner. But you are responsible for your half of the relationship up to the point of cheating. This means you are responsible for those feelings of mistrust you ignored and the behaviors you noticed, but said nothing about. How many times did you say to yourself “something is wrong”, only to turn your gaze away from your nagging feelings, to keep your charade of bliss?
Conversely, how many times as a cheating partner, did you ignore the option to stop the behavior and renounce your ways. Yet, you kept the deception and charade going, ignoring the harm you were inflicting on another human being, one you, at one time, claimed to love.
At the end of the day, to heal yourself and your love, you will need to own your willful ignorance and enabling behaviors. Once you own your half of the mess, you’re ready to let go of any shame and guilt you may feel. You are ready to heal the relationship, if that is your desire.
Forgiveness is not the same as forgetting. It may take a long time for you to forget your pain and hurt. But, if you continue to picture your partner with someone else, and blame yourself through feelings of self loathing or self criticism, then you won’t be able to forgive yourself. And forgiveness is essential for you to heal the wounds in your relationship.
It’s important to create some distance between yourself and the betrayal, at least enough to sleep at night, so you can begin to forgive yourself for your part. Why is this important? Because you can’t heal pain and restore love without first restoring love to yourself through self forgiveness.
It may take a long time to work through all your anger as well, this is normal. A sense of wholeness can be present within you before the fires of anger dispel.
And obviously, a cheater has to let go of their guilt as well. But only after a thorough and remorseful review of their actions.
Learn To Trust Yourself
More often than not, a couple dealing with betrayal never really trusts their own feelings before the betrayal. Most cheated-on partners and cheating partners ignore signs that something is wrong in their connection. Cheated-on partners are particularly prone to trust even when their partners behaviors contradict their own experiences. A cheated-on partner rarely relies on his or her own instincts. Instead, cheated-on partners seek the validation of others, and put faith in circumstances that others would not.
It is not necessary for you to feel one hundred percent healed before you trust yourself. For some, the betrayal marks the first time they have faced serious consequences for ignoring their own intuition. But it won’t be the last, unless you learn from the lesson and put your trust in yourself. Do not wait for your partner to “earn” your trust. Don’t rely on your partner’s words, actions or intentions to provide comfort and security anymore.
Again, I am not blaming a cheated-on partner for their partner's bad behavior. I am trying to persuade you that you must rely on your own feelings, as the first and last place you look to know the truth of what is real for you.
Do this by putting faith in your own body's ability to send you red flag signals when things feel hurtful or painful. And also trust your body's messages that tell you when everything feels calm and secure. Your ability to sense both sensations is crucial to happiness, and this is the most secure way to love another person.
Cheaters have to learn to trust themselves too. They have to learn to trust in their ability to advocate for their needs within the relationship, instead of meeting their needs outside of the relationship. This can be scary and it will take real courage and humility, but it can be done. Trust that your neediness won’t overwhelm you and trust that you will learn to handle your feelings of “longing”. And in your ability to create win/win options for you and your partner.
Sit In The Pain You’ve Caused
This bit of advice is particularly important for cheaters. Cheaters want to receive pardon overnight. The reality is that you can’t go back to the way things were. You destroyed that version of reality with your betrayal, so now you must live in the wound that you created. It may hurt like crap to sit in the mess you’ve made. You may feel like your real grievances are going ignored because of your “bad” behavior. These are the consequences of your actions, your non-consensual actions.
Your partner may want to take some space from you. He or she may find it hard to be in the same room with you or be intimate with you. If you want to heal and find love again, you’ll need to make a heartfelt apology along with a sincere amendment. Anything short of this will lead your partner from anger to hurt, to resentment, marking the beginning of the end for your relationship. To heal yourself and the relationship you’ll have to sit with the discomfort of what you created.
A cheated-on partner has to sit in discomfort too. As I mentioned before, you are partly responsible up to the point of cheating. Therefore a lot of the pain you feel can’t be placed at the foot of your cheating partner. You’ll have to sit with your imagination, your fits of rage and your thread of un-love that you finally notice after all those years. Chalk it up as a bad investment and try to move forward making better investments.
What A Cheating Partner Must Do To heal their relationship
A relationship partner cheats either to hurt his or her partner, to stay in a marriage or or to leave a relationship. Whatever your reason for cheating you need to make peace with your decision. Peace can be found by acknowledging the real truth behind your actions. (Hint: It’s not your partner.)
If your purpose was to exact revenge or cause pain, drop any shred of self justification you may have like a hot rock. Breaking faith to cause harm is a truly heinous act. If you see it any other way, take another look at it. Then humbly let that realization reach the light of day within your partnership. To heal you will need your tone and words to reflect that you understand how hurtful this reason for rejection is.
The cheater who cheats to stay married has to acknowledge that he or she has avoided a very hard truth. The truth is that their relationship may not be right for them. This can be a bitter pill to swallow, but facing this truth, without blaming your partner is an important step towards healing.
In addition, the Cheater who cheats to stay, has to own the fact that many of his or her decisions within the relationship have been poor ones. He or she has to realize that their partner’s resistance towards them is due in part, to how bad their thinking has been, sometimes for years. How do we know this cheater suffers from bad logic? Because it’s illogical to think “ to love you, I must deceive you”.
The cheater who cheats to leave and find a new love has to own that the love they know how to create is chalked full of rejection. Rejected love is always painful. This is the man or woman who has one foot out of the door and the other foot crushing the life blood out of their partner’s heart. They believe “the grass is greener on the other side” and they have an eye to move towards greener pastures. But this is like the lawn owner who complains about the brown patches in their own yard, while neglecting to notice that they are the gardener.
This cheater has inflicted much pain on their partner and instead of finding the courage to leave, they make their partner suffer, while deluding themselves that they are stuck in an intolerable situation. This cheater’s work is to understand the cycle of rejection that they create, take responsibility for the wounds they have created and make a full confession.
The key for all three cheaters is humility and grace. Most often this work has to be done with a professional. So seek assistance to heal the pain that betrayal has uncovered in your relationship. Try not to “fix” your relationship, you have to heal it.
What A Cheated-On Partner Must NOT Do To Heal Their Relationship
A cheated on partner will feel many emotions, from anxiety and insecurity, to anger and frustration. They must resist the desire to “just forgive” without working through all of their valid emotions.
To do this, the cheated-on partner must be as committed to leaving the relationship as they are to staying in the relationship. Ambivalence gives a cheated-on partner the emotional equilibrium needed to explore their real needs and desires for love. You can’t allow feelings of false guilt or shame, to motivate you to stay for the kids or for your self image. When your higher self instructs you to leave, refusing is like refusing to have cancer surgery because you fear the scar it would leave. Cheated-on partners can’t fear the remedy for removing cancer.
To find the courage to face the truth a cheated-on partner has to elevate their self worth. Remember, you deserve love. Through the practice of ambivalence you’ll find the strength to follow your own “yes” or “no”, despite any demands you may feel from family, friends, children or your cheating partner.
Betrayal creates a wound in both the cheater and the cheated-on partner. Even though the healing process is different for a cheater and for a partner who has been cheated-on, humility will be key for both partners. Each partner must gather the courage to revisit their old relationship wounds. Then own all of the pain they have caused within the relationship, through their many denials and rejections of love. Then they must forgive themselves as well as their partner.
To heal Cheated-on partners must learn self love and to trust their intuition. And cheaters must learn to sit in the pain they have caused without feeling indignation. Both must overcome their fear of facing the truth about their relationship. More often than not healing should be conducted with professional help.
There Is Help If You Want It
Betrayal is a serious offense against love. Before you suffer through or bail out, seek help. I have two options for suffering couples, take a Relationship Inventory on your relationship. It's easy, it's simple and you can find out what’s left to salvage. In it you will get an understanding of the tensions and resentments that created the underlying environment for betrayal. In this retreat you'll receive tools to cut resentment at its root.